Note: The following review was written a long time ago, before our migration to WordPress and when our reviewing skills were still noob-level. Apologies.
Adapted from a mystery novel series of the same title
Produced by: Kyoto Animation
Genres: Mystery, Comedy, Slice of Life, Romance
Number of episodes: 22
Oreki Houtarou’s motto is “If I don’t have to do it, I won’t. If I have to do it, I’ll make it quick.” However, he goes against his motto when he joins Kamiyama High School’s Classic Literature Club at his sister’s request to stop it from being abolished. Houtarou, together with fellow members Chitanda Eru, Fukube Satoshi and Ibara Mayaka, discover mysteries around the school that only Houtarou is able to solve.
From left: Fukube Satoshi, Houtarou Oreki, Chitanda Eru and Ibara Mayaka
Overall Rating: 4/5 moons
Story – 8/10
Hyouka has a high school setting, quirky characters, and a couple whose happiness can be predicted from the get-go. At first glance, it seems like this anime has the foundation of yet another typical shoujo/school life comedy, and yet, I couldn’t have been more wrong. Even though it can be considered a slice of life anime, the series is more heavy on the mystery genre; the combination of the two making for less serious mysteries to compliment the overall peaceful slice of life atmosphere.
Initially, I thought that the main plot would prioritize one mystery introduced within the first few episodes since it had the most meaning and connection to one of our main characters. However, it turned out not to matter very much. Not only was it solved relatively quickly, it also didn’t have much impact on the overarching story line. This is what makes me think that, over everything else, this series is cyclical. There are mini arcs that begin and end with each mystery, and little of what is learnt in each mystery is carried on substantially into the future. That fact made the tension build-up and pacing a bit inconsistent, but the entertainment levels were still high.
Several times in the anime I found myself on the edge of the seat, wondering what theory would come out of Oreki Houtarou’s mouth next. Not only because he is devilishly good-looking (guilty as charged), but also because the anime strings you along in such a way that you won’t even be able to guess what will happen next. They say that a good mystery story (and a good magic trick!) is all about selective perception, and I think the story definitely tricks the viewer into ignoring the obvious until it turns out to be the clincher.
Like I said earlier, despite its serious mystery moments, the series is still a slice of life. It is the moments when the four club members are together that are the most fun to watch. Ultimately though, it is the combination of the two that makes it so unique, and is also why Hyouka has so quickly become one of our all-time favorites from KyoAni.
Character – 7.5/10
Oreki is a naturally ‘energy-conserving’ person and seems to be unaffected by whatever comes his way. However, he slowly begins to care as the anime progresses, thanks to Chitanda’s persistence, although this change is very subtle. It only becomes obvious in the ending, when you sit back and compare to the way he was in the beginning. And while his change was cliche in a way (reserved/lazy person finally warming up in the end), it was very touching to see this incredibly likable character beginning to show a different side of himself. It’s also just like Kyoto Animation to be able to pull off love-inspired development really well, just like they did in Tamako Love Story and Chuunibyou Demo Koi Ga Shitai.
Other than that, it was also great that Satoshi and Mayaka got some development. Over the course of the entire show, so much attention was given to Chitanda and Oreki that the other two hardly got any. When in actuality, the Satoshi and Mayaka development was so much more insightful. Not to mention, Satoshi as a character turned out to be a lot more complex than I had initially assumed. It’s not often KyoAni does male characters with proper development, so this much is appreciated.
Visuals + Audio – 8/10
As for the technical bits, the visuals were great. Everything from scenery to character design were so beautiful, as expected of KyoAni’s usual standard. The audio was similarly catchy, and contributed much to the unique ‘feel’ of this series.
Hyouka is a perfect combination of Slice of Life and Mystery, fun and intriguing. The anime will find you on the edge of your seat countless times with its mysteries, but its personal touch – the character development – is guaranteed to touch you. Its only flaw may be in the story, which has inconsistent build-up of tension thanks to its usage of arcs, but that appears to be its only issue. Everything else – its pacing, visuals, audio, ending etc. – are all satisfactory, just as expected from something from Kyoto Animation.